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Back from our first Costa cruise on Smeralda , my thoughts with pics.


heatherb1958
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Bit of background, we are a couple in our 60s, parents of two very adult children and have one teenage grandson. 
Our cruising history started in 1999 with Celebrity , along  the way we have cruised mainly with RCI and dipped in with Celebrity, Princess, UK package cruise lines but more recently have cruised more with MSC . In 2019 we did all the current Meraviglia class with MSC but have also been on Splendida , Magnifica, Seaview and Preziosa. I will come back to Seaview later. We love MSC ships and are ok with the Italian experience. We are currently not doing long haul flights so to satisfy the cruising addiction in the Winter months limits us a bit . 
Hubby spied a fantastic deal to cruise on Smeralda with a Brindiamo drinks package included , a brand new ship with drinks included it was a no brainer , we could try the line with not too much loss to us if it was as bad as the reviews made out. So here goes, our/my thoughts be it good or bad with pics. 
I will do a separate post specifically to each aspect of ship, no questions please about the ports we did not get off at all for various reasons.

Please be patient too as I am using hotel WiFi which is not the fastest. 

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I will do comparisons with MSC as they are both Italian and operate similarly. 

Embarkation - Barcelona

 We have priority  embarkation with MSC due to the Status Match programme introduced a few years ago. With interporting  , which Costa also do , you don’t have the embarkation crowds like other lines so we decided we would leave our hotel late and hopefully have a smooth experience .

 

The day we arrived in Barcelona the winds were terrible, there wasn’t an active social media group but I spied something that told us Smeralda was already in BCN. I checked my phone messages and there was one from Costa to say that due too weather problems we were to proceed to the World trade centre for check in. 
We arrived shortly after noon and couldn’t see the ship and then the penny dropped , our luggage was taken off us to a truck, we were shepherded through the terminal , papers checked and directed to a bus where we had the shortish bus ride to the ship  berthed at  the container port, off the bus , helped up the ramp on deck 3, security picture taken , hand luggage through the scanner and then directed to the lifts for available food. 
Wow, I don’t think we could have embarked any quicker if we had been at the regular  terminal so for organisation and communication I give Costa 10/10 . 

The weather deteriorated and we ended up staying in port for two nights and left at 1.30am on the Wednesday as we boarded on the Monday. 
We were quite happy as our purpose of the cruise was to experience Costa and not the ports but will appreciate there were disappointed people ,we got €70 per person back as refundable OBC for the inconvenience without even asking. 
 

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We had the Brindiamo package included and having read on the boards that for a few more Euro upgrading to Piu Gusto increased the available cocktails we pre booked online. Costa operate a system where you pre reserve and they charge to your seapass account once you board . 
We went straight to a bar and had a couple of cocktails. Your card is on the bed in your cabin, just give the bar server your cabin number and you are good to go.

We had no complaints so far . 

If anyone has been on RCI’s Quantum class you  will know that they don’t have a desk as such but wandering guest service staff with iPads . On Smeralda it is very similar but on embarkation day they have banners with Reception info point on several decks.

I asked at one of these points to have our accounts linked , no problem , done  there and then, no standing inline required . The lovely Italian lady explained we had Premium service with our inside cabin and what it included.

Staff interaction so far excellent.

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Cabin-  15042, inside forward. The decks each have a different colour carpet in the hallways, one is Easyjet orange !!! 
 

Our cabin was small but adequate , no seating other than the dresser chair but at least it  was comfortable and better than MSC’s offering of a rock hard stool on Meraviglia class.
The TV was huge and annoying as it ate into cabin space as it was housed in a  huge frame which stuck out about 6 inches. 

We loved the bathroom layout  and shower being oblong shaped . Only two drawers at the dresser which housed the hairdryer but there was shelving in the wardrobe where the safe was . The bed was high and comfy. Our luggage was already there so unpacked, first complaint , the drop in the wardrobe was not long enough even for my knee length dress. I travel with  an over the door hook so just kept my dresses there on the outside.

Here is a link to our cabin pics.

 

 

 

https://photos.app.goo.gl/KWhLE3foPjAK3Ada7
 

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Great stuff! Your extensive review is highly appreciated. I hope you will cover a couple of "hot topics" from the previous reviews/ this forum:

- Dining experience and selection of MDR (there has been discussion whether to select Menegghino or Arlecchino)

- Quality of food

- Embarkation at each port: all bars and restaurants closed during mandatory safety drill each day

- There have also been complaints on crowded buffet and poor entertainment, but based on my previous experience on Costa, these are very much expected (and there is no need to attend either)!

Many thanks!

 

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Dinner in Arlecchino- 

 

Having studied the photos online of all the available dining rooms I chose Mennegghino 

 table for two and we got Arlecchino . I always go to the dining room on boarding day and check the table , was  happy with the location but the chair looked uncomfortable,  reminded me of a beach chair with plastic latticing. A waiter said no problem can request to change which we did but for other reasons, my husband became ill with a Vertigo attack at dinner that first night   for which he immediately takes tablets , the Maitre D was wonderful and got wheelchair assistance to take him back to the cabin but I had time to quickly look at the menu.

First impression was shock, most items  seemed to have a cover charge and there was poor choice for the items with no charge.

tip- we applied to join the Costa club before the cruise and had immediate discounts once onboard so at least if we had ordered an upcharge item it had a discount, 50% I think but there was too much going on with organising my husband. Our new table with much more comfortable seating was arranged for closer to the entrance in Arlecchino so if he had another attack we could leave quickly, thankfully no further episodes during the cruise. 
The next night’s menu had no upcharge items on it and we found things on it we enjoyed. Plenty of seafood items for us, hubby doesn’t eat meat. I had the beef top sirloin, it was obviously cooked , left to go cold  and sliced but was ok. All the hot food we had was piping hot on very hot plates , no complaints there . The only thing we took one mouthful of and left was a seafood soup like lobster bisque, too salty. Once we got our routine sorted by missing breakfast and going to the buffet at noon we were enjoying the food.  They run a buffet and waiter service in two dining rooms for lunch but we never went.

I would say the food on MSC is much better in the buffet as they do cater for their ethnic guests with stir fry’s and curries which we enjoy.  We did not starve. 

 

  I discovered my first dislike of Costa pretty quickly, very limited food service hours. My husband was safely tucked up in bed recovering on the first night so I went to look for food, there was nothing to be had for free. I could have ordered a sandwich to the cabin which came with the Premium service but did not want to disturb hubby. The buffet finishes at 9.30pm. I took a picture of the screen showing all available restaurants one morning at 11.54am , there weren’t any !! 
We are used to ships running buffet breakfast til 11am and lunch was swapping over more or less at the same time, MSC do that . 
 

 

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Entertainment and drill

 

Our drill was in the theatre , on Smeralda you have to wear your life jacket to the drill and they are the weirdest ones we have ever come across and most difficult to decipher , like strapping two boxes to your body one behind your head and one in front below your arm pits.

The theatre was again very strange , bench comfy seating with tables and chairs at the front with regular pull down theatre seating behind and a bar  .  This all became apparent during the cruise . 
 

The main entertainment is visual as with MSC to cover all languages. Onboard is a Ukrainian acrobatic troupe who were amazing . 
Tip- the theatre show was shown on the big screen in the Collosseo. We would get a seat in the Collosseo  after early dinner watch from there and then have a good view for the happenings later on. 
The ship was still in rehearsals for some of the entertainment which unfortunately wasn’t ready before we left ,  the Collesseo is amazing and so versatile in usage.

The central floor area stage has so many platforms and can be made to look like a tiered cake. 
I read one review that it was a waste of space and just for the little kids to run around on. We spent most of our evenings in there before heading to the late night venues which on occasion was the theatre because that turned into a night club, the rock party was in there. The stage drops to become a dance floor hence the comfy seating around the edge.

Our cabin was one floor below the indoor pool which is called a beach club, loved , loved this venue. They had music at night in here too , a band or whatever plus the White party and Silent disco were held in here . So so much fun and went on til 2am.

Yes there were some little ones running around the Collosseo floor but not for very long , if any got in the way of my dance moves well what can I say except parents control your children. 
Our other haunts were the Jazz club and what I called the blue lounge because the comfy sofas were blue. So all in all we enjoyed the entertainment onboard.

 

I would say though that our English version of the daily planner looked like it missed stuff out because it never mentioned the dance classes which we saw take place or the arts and crafts yet the people taking those were speaking English . 
 

 

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Pool deck and kids.

 

 

 

Now this is where the ship is a let down for families with young children. If you look at RCI’s and MSC’s children’s pool areas you will see what I mean. Smeralda is just plain boring, two flume slides I think , no splash pools for the potty trained little ones , it is just  line after line of sun loungers . Also when exploring the pool deck I realised there isn’t a higher deck lounge bar that overlooks the deck for those sundowner drinks . 

 

I popped my head into the kids games arcade to see how big it was,  no bigger than our inside cabin !!! !! I was shocked . Wished I had taken a picture.

 

https://photos.app.goo.gl/VD6s7Xt61Ftz4kos7

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Bar service .

 

We upgraded to the Piu Gusto package . In the bars the service was excellent , they punch your order into their little gadgets and then someone else brings your drinks and very often with a jar of mixed nuts. Do do try the nibbles in the Campari bar, mint popcorn with chocolate , OMG , delicious. 

Take note, in the buffet it is self service for drinks  , you queue at a counter and will only be served what is on the Brindiamo package and in PLASTIC . I can understand if the buffet were on a pool deck but it is on deck 8 .!!!!

 There is a machine for your drinks package  coffee, you swipe your card and make your choice. 
This is where MSC Seaview is so much better for their deck 8 buffet as they have extensive seating outside with a proper bar serving all drinks with bar service . On Smeralda they have sunloungers galore and sofas on deck 8. 
One other thing about  the buffet , they have staff on the door stopping you from taking food out on plates, you can take the food but not the plates !!! Pack some paper ones if you want to take snacks to your room

 

Edited by heatherb1958
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Thank you for taking the time to do the review. You are right need more Costa reviews. Will attempt to do one on my next cruise on Costa Diadema.

 

Looks like the theatre is the same as what is called the Liquid Lounge on the newer Carnival ships.  Big mistake and had heard that they were changing it. All to fit in more cabins!

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La Spaggia beach club otherwise called Solariums on most ships.

 

 

This was my favourite daytime venue but of course not adult only . The ship was not full but there were a lot of kids of all ages onboard so this pool was always full because it was too cold outside for swimming, we never had a problem getting a comfy  seat though. There 3 levels , two bars,  a Street food counter  (€) , a Nutella food counter (€) and a Gelato counter (€) . On Costa no free ice cream anywhere even in MDR at night, upcharge sign on the menu. 
There is no waiter bar service in here either , you have to go to the bar yourself , one bar doesn’t do hot drinks and the other didn’t do certain cocktails so check the menu on the counter before standing in line which of course there isn’t, 😆 .

The night time parties in here were fab and they used the Street food counter as a pop up bar , no one seemed to notice that so while I was being served by my personal bar man on the other side people were two and three deep waiting for service.

 

https://photos.app.goo.gl/pBzMQeSKVAUs1bNRA

 

 

 

Edited by heatherb1958
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13 hours ago, Vald78 said:

Great stuff! Your extensive review is highly appreciated. I hope you will cover a couple of "hot topics" from the previous reviews/ this forum:

- Dining experience and selection of MDR (there has been discussion whether to select Menegghino or Arlecchino)

 

Quote

- Quality of food -  Varied, some dishes good, ,,some bared no resemblance to description.

- Embarkation at each port: all bars and restaurants closed during mandatory safety drill each day -  no to this , the only places that closed would be it were an assembly station. We were happily ordering drinks whilst others did their drill

- There have also been complaints on crowded buffet and poor entertainment, but based on my previous experience on Costa, these are very much expected (and there is no need to attend either)! —. the buffet on deck 8 was super crowded by 1pm  get there as it opens and go to the port side , starboard side always opened first and people navigated to that side. You can also enter from the aft lifts and is quieter there  too, sometimes.

 

Quote

Many thanks!

 

 

Edited by heatherb1958
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I think I have covered everything but if there is something specific anyone needs an answer too I will do my best.

 

To some up , we paid £415 pp for the cruise including the Brindiamo drinks package with a Premium service inside cabin. The value of the drinks package if it were purchased was £185 . Due to the delay in leaving Barcelona we were each given €70 as refundable OBC. We were entertained , fed and watered for 7 nights for very little outlay.

 

One final thing, there were were  a few obnoxious Italians onboard but there were also other nationalities who were just as obnoxious. I told my hubby to leave his British politeness on the quayside and pick it up when we disembarked . On MSC we so far have rarely come across the behaviour we experienced but fortunately it was only occasionally. 
 

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Great review and pics! Many thanks!

I have a couple of questions still:

- Is the larger outdoor pool area in your pictures (pool with white/blue stripes) open to all customers or to spa guests only? Is it heated?

- Was the outdoor bar and food venue close to the pool (Settimo cielo?) open during your cruise or is it for the summer season only? How about the other outside bar aft on Deck 7?

- Was there any a la carte breakfast available or is it all buffet?

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1 hour ago, Vald78 said:

Great review and pics! Many thanks!

I have a couple of questions still:

- Is the larger outdoor pool area in your pictures (pool with white/blue stripes) open to all customers or to spa guests only? Is it heated?

- Was the outdoor bar and food venue close to the pool (Settimo cielo?) open during your cruise or is it for the summer season only? How about the other outside bar aft on Deck 7?

- Was there any a la carte breakfast available or is it all buffet?


Hi there, 

 

Yes to the pool with blue and white stripes , open to all , deck 18 forward.I did not test the water . The photos showing the navy cabanas and blue/ white striped loungers with jacuzzi  is the private deck 19 area. You use your card for entry but the door opened automatically so we went up for photos.

 

The bar aft on deck 7 was open once we got through the strong winds as was the Aperol Spritz bar and the one on 17 , Orizzonte  bar . No outside food venues opened at all nor the bars that went with them. All the venues were weather permitting . 
 

yes to an a la Carte breakfast in dining room but we never made to any breakfast as we are late to bedders and late risers 

 

I hope you saw my answers to your other questions in your  quote. Happy to help. 

Edited by heatherb1958
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Hi Heather

 

Thanks for the review. We are boarding 4 weeks on Saturday. We are diamond pearl members so I hope we will have the allocated restaurant at least. I hope it is a little warmer by then so that the pool bars are open. 

 

We have been on the MSC Grandiosa a few weeks ago and though the pool bars were open it was just a little too cold to sit there for long. 

 

Riana

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Thank you so much for all the details.  The photos are really good but where are all the people?

 

We are booked for Easter week from Barcelona.  I booked thinking that Costa would be the same as MSC, who we have cruised with many times before and really enjoyed, I should have done my research before booking instead of just assuming!  The cost of the cruise with similar dates on the MSC ship was 3 times as much as Costa - although the MSC price was a suite not just a balcony - I blindly booked thinking that I was getting a bargain.  I looked last night to see about cancelling Costa but nothing else ties into our dates/flights to Barcelona.

 

I am resigned to going and making the best of things but my OH and daughter aren't quite as flexible but they haven't seen any of the reviews etc - only the "blurb" of the adverts and Costa's website.  I am torn between showing them all the terrible reviews and waiting to see if it is as bad as it seems - I have a few weeks to make up my mind!!  It is the food that worries me the most - they both love the food on cruise ships, especially as is available for most of the day - it sounds like we will have to plan our time according to when it is possible to eat rather than relaxing and enjoying whatever we are doing.

 

How or when can you choose which dining room you would like to eat in?  Thanks

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2 hours ago, alicat58 said:

Hi Heather

 

Thanks for the review. We are boarding 4 weeks on Saturday. We are diamond pearl members so I hope we will have the allocated restaurant at least. I hope it is a little warmer by then so that the pool bars are open. 

 

We have been on the MSC Grandiosa a few weeks ago and though the pool bars were open it was just a little too cold to sit there for long. 

 

Riana


 Hi Riana, we were on Grandiosa on 5th December , there wasn’t anything we did not like except maybe the volume of the music in the Galleria could have been turned down a notch at the evening parties. Felt sorry for the residents of the nearby cabins. 

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1 hour ago, Plan B said:

Thank you so much for all the details.  The photos are really good but where are all the people?

 

We are booked for Easter week from Barcelona.  I booked thinking that Costa would be the same as MSC, who we have cruised with many times before and really enjoyed, I should have done my research before booking instead of just assuming!  The cost of the cruise with similar dates on the MSC ship was 3 times as much as Costa - although the MSC price was a suite not just a balcony - I blindly booked thinking that I was getting a bargain.  I looked last night to see about cancelling Costa but nothing else ties into our dates/flights to Barcelona.

 

I am resigned to going and making the best of things but my OH and daughter aren't quite as flexible but they haven't seen any of the reviews etc - only the "blurb" of the adverts and Costa's website.  I am torn between showing them all the terrible reviews and waiting to see if it is as bad as it seems - I have a few weeks to make up my mind!!  It is the food that worries me the most - they both love the food on cruise ships, especially as is available for most of the day - it sounds like we will have to plan our time according to when it is possible to eat rather than relaxing and enjoying whatever we are doing.

 

How or when can you choose which dining room you would like to eat in?  Thanks


Hi there, 

if you go online to access your booking there is a section to select your dining time, table size and also dining room. Not sure of the  cut off point but I did change ours more than a week before sailing and still ended with the original one.

 

Our second table assistant waiter was excellent , our waiter was also until I witnessed him provide less then excellent service towards another guest not in his section who rightfully gave him the evil eye . It was a simple request for butter for the table , the guests had only boarded that day, they did not know who their table team was. Our waiter rather than just getting some told them their waiter would get it, he only had to walk 6ft to his colleagues fridge and check. I was annoyed for them. 

Talking about butter, it is not supplied in wrapped pats on the ship, you need to ask for it from your waiter in the MDR and in the buffet if you go to where they make the rice/risotto they have it in bowls there and will happily give you some.

The only food you serve yourself in the buffet is bread and make your own salad, everything else is portion controlled in bowls on top of the glass display but you can ask for more or a single item only from the display. Fried eggs available everyday at lunch too which we thought bizarre but for those that regularly miss breakfast like us , 😆 was a saviour.

Food is subjective, my hubby  will only eat fish and chicken. He loved lunch in the buffet as they had grilled  fish everyday. 
 

With regards your comment about where everybody was ,the photos were either taken when it was too cold for the Mediterraneans to go out 😆 or when they were off in port or disembarked . 

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Last topic - drinks prices in Euros and general menu. There is a separate one for the Campari bar and Ferrari bar ,  drinks packages can be used . At the Campari bar it clearly shows on their menu the packages. I asked at the Ferrari bar if packages can be used and barman said yes but only for simple mixed drinks like Gin and Tonic, no cocktails.

I guess this is  to encourage people to use the venue, not everyone drinks champagne .

I remember years ago when RCI changed the Champagne bar on Radiance class ships to Vintages only doing wine and it did not go down well so they had to re introduce mixed drinks .

 

https://photos.app.goo.gl/hZdnmyE6NGGf8gHb8

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Hi just to let you know to keep an eye out on the latest news re the ship you just got off as it seems some people on it may have the Coronavirus.  The ship is now in isolation awaiting testing results from these passengers they had been on the ship since 25th Jan.    

 

I am sure you may want to know this before seeing family and friends - I know I would

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Thanks for all the info - much appreciated.

 

I saw a photo of a weird looking hand washing station - did you use it?  I am allergic to some of the chemicals in liquid soap, shampoo, shower gel, washing u liquid etc etc etc so I always carry my own soap and anti bacterial gel.  Would I be able to use my own soap in these "stations" or is the soap incorporated in with the water?  Thanks, again 

 

My allergy is to Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT

 

Here is the review where I saw the photo. 

 https://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=676598

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